“A friend once asked if it was true that no politician ever failed by underestimating the intelligence of the peasants and the livestock. I told him we would never know, because their intelligence was something that was impossible to underestimate.”
-President Weishaupt, from Cerebus The Aardvark
I read about a lot of people who are surprised and amazed when they hear some of the things said by Republican politicians these days. While obviously there are serious reasons that one political party will oppose another, there’s a difference between an honest disagreement and an opposition that’s based on no facts whatsoever. Like the idea that President Obama was born in Kenya, or that he’s a Muslim: that both of those statements are undeniably false means nothing: they validate the hatred of the President and that’s all that matters. As Im so fond of saying, discussing politics with some of these people is like discussing baseball with someone who is absolutely and unwaveringly certain that Babe Ruth played shortstop for the Chicago Cubs in the nineteen-fifties, it’s that far removed from reality. And it really becomes pointless to even try to talk to them.
My usual answer when I read about these comments from politicians is that if you think they’re idiots, you have yet to meet their constituents. I saw a video of a town hall meeting where one lady was saying with absolute certainty that the President was bringing Muslim terrorists into the country as pilots, which was a new one on me. She didn’t make this up herself, on further research it seems this was a story going around on the B-level right wing talk circuit, but it’s a perfect example of how people will believe the most ridiculous things if it concurs with their already existing prejudices.
Lincoln famously said that the Union could not exist half slave and half free, it’s also true that the Union cannot exist when half the population, or half the elected officials, is batshit crazy. Because crazy they surely are, and I for one don’t entirely understand the motivations behind some of the things they do. Granted, for the ones perpetuating these stories, most of it is just a scam, an advancement of things that televangelists have been doing for ages to separate the rubes from their money. If you don’t believe me, watch an hour or so of a show like The 700 Club, if you can bear it. We’re all in danger, send money is what it always boils down to, and there are no end to the assorted threats and dangers, when one is forgotten there is a new one: we have always been at war with Eastasia, etc.. That it comes from a private organization and not the government doesn’t make much difference. Of course victory can never be achieved, if it did, the gravy train would stop, and you can’t have that. So I can at least understand the desire to catapult the propaganda, what I don’t really understand is why, time and time again, the marks fall for it.
I recall many many years ago I watched a documentary about the origins of the religious right as a political organization in the US, and apparently they began to organize politically when President Carter was preparing to order the Justice Department to investigate some of these scams. Because of that the hucksters learned how to organize politically, and thanks to massive amounts of funding from individuals like the Koch brothers (who aren’t associated with the religious right but on whose vote they require in order to pursue their own agenda), as well as the gerrymandering of numerous congressional districts that ensure the craziest of crazy people can say pretty much whatever they want without fear of the consequences, we have a situation where this country is very much in danger of falling apart completely.
At Cooper Union, Lincoln correctly pointed out that the slave states would never be convinced that the free states had no intention of ending slavery, which of course they did not. Many businesses relied on slavery for their business just as much as the slave states relied on it for their economy. Most people of the day in fact believed that slavery would continue, that some sort of deal would be made, and many in the free states even sympathized with the slave states to an extent, and had no more love for slaves than the antebellum South. That all changed when Fort Sumter was fired upon, and Lincoln was proved right: only through bloody war were the slave states brought to bay, and even so, to this day, they remain absolutely convinced of their righteousness, ignoring the facts of history and looking forward to the day when the “South will rise again”.
A country cannot be allowed to go this crazy without consequences, and I believe one of two things has to happen in order for us to return to any reasonable sense of normalcy: a massive political revolt along the lines of the New Deal, when things get so bad that tremendous changes need to be made not just to how we do government but to how we perceive our daily lives, or that sort of change has to come from without, from an outside force moving in to make these changes for the safety of the rest of the world. I think that will be more of an economic struggle than a military one, but we’ll see. I think such a thing is inevitable, just a matter of when, and I wonder if it will happen in my lifetime.
Until then, I will remain unsurprised by any of the stupid things being said or done by the Republican Party.